How To Get Nail To Reattach To Nail Bed

Many acrylic nail users experience onycholysis at least once in their lives. The good news is that it doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, it predisposes you to various nail infections. Moreover, lifted nails grow weirdly, making your fingers appear awkward.

So, how do you fix the problem? Can you get the lifted nail to reattach to the nail bed? If so, how? Read on to find out.

How to get nails to reattach to the nail bed

Unfortunately, a separated nail does not reattach to the nail bed. Instead, you must wait for a new nail to replace it. Fingernails grow back in about six months, while toenails grow back in 18 months. Taking good care of the separated nail as the new one grows in its place ensures a stronger, healthier new nail and may hasten regrowth.

What is Onycholysis?

Onycholysis is the separation of the nail plate from the pink skin underneath, better known as the nail bed. Nail injury is the most common cause. However, onycholysis can also result from nail infections like nail fungi.

Fortunately, the problem self-resolves. Fingernails regrow in 4-6 months, while toenails regrow in 12-18 months.

Types of Onycholysis

The two main types of onycholysis are distal and proximal. Here’s what you need to know about each;

  • Distall Onycholysis: The nail plate separation begins at the far edge of the nail and progresses toward the cuticle area. It’s the most common type of nail separation.
  • Proximal Onycholyis: The separation starts in the cuticle area and progresses toward the nail tip.

Onycholysis Signs 

  • Thick overgrown nails
  • The nail peels from the nail bed underneath
  • Tough, thick nail beds
  • Discolored nails and nail beds
  • Dents and pits in the nails
  • The nails crumble

What Causes a Detached Nail? 

Nails detach from the skin beneath for many reasons. The following are the four most common causes;

Separation Caused by Injury

Trauma and untreated nail injuries are the primary causes of lifted nails. For instance, jamming the nail against a solid object can cause it to pry away from the skin.

Similarly, untreated injuries may cause the nail to separate from the nail bed. Finally, irritation due to excessive filing, chemical injuries, and allergic contact dermatitis can cause nail separation.

Untreated Fungal Infection

Fungal infections are the next most common cause of nail separation. Yeast can attack the space under your nails, turning the loose portion of the nail yellow or white.

Common signs include pain and discomfort in the affected area. The nail may also become thicker, spotted, cracked, or disfigured.

Skin Conditions

Skin conditions like nail psoriasis or severe illnesses like allergic contact dermatitis can cause the nail to lift from the skin. Prosiasis has almost the same symptoms as fungal infection.

So, you must see a dermatologist to determine the root cause. Meanwhile, allergic contact dermatitis is a reaction to new environments.

Bacterial Infections

Untreated bacterial infections can cause nail separation. Specifically, be wary of pseudomonas.

It mainly attacks those who frequently have their hands in water, including waitpersons, nurses, and bartenders.

The infection causes a blue-green discoloration of the nail plate, which separates from the skin beneath.

Medication like Chemotherapy

Some types of chemotherapy cause your skin to become dry, red, and itchy. Then it begins to peel. As a result, you may develop dark, cracked nails with damaged cuticles. Or worse, the nail may lift off the nail bed.

Other drugs like tetracycline, zidovudine, and clofazimine may also cause the plate to lift from the nail bed.

Harsh Nail Chemicals

Finally, your onycholysis may be the result of mani-pedis gone wrong. Of course, this only affects some. However, it’s common for consumers who use low-quality tools and materials or poor mani-pedi techniques.

For instance, the wrong nail hardener and harsh acetone nail polish removers render the nails dry and cracky, increasing the risk of onycholysis.

Home Care: Caring for Lifting Nails at Home

If you notice that your nails are lifting the nail bed, act immediately to slow down the process and reverse the problem.

The following are a few things to do before seeing the doctor;

  • Remove the artificial nail: If you’re wearing acrylic nails or gel nails, remove them until the nail lifting resolves. Consider removing the false nails at a nail salon to minimize injury and damage to the soft nail bed.
  • File and shape the edges: Trim the edges of the affected nail and file them smoothly so the crooked nail doesn’t grab items. Otherwise, there’s a great risk of tearing. Then buff it and remove the dust.
  • Trim off the detached part (optional): In an ideal world, you want to trim off the lifted portion to halt the damage and reduce the spread of infections (if present). However, leave it alone if you fear that you may injure or damage the healthy part of the nail. Soak the finger in water before trimming.
  • Apply petroleum jelly: Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the entire area to keep it moist and soft. It soothes the surrounding skin, reducing soreness and inflammation. 
  • Apply tea tree oil: A 2013 study shows that tea tree oils treat fungi and yeast infections underneath the nail. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba oil, instead of applying it directly to the affected area.
  • Cover with a nonstick bandage: A fresh adhesive bandage over the affected finger or toe protects it from debris and dirt. It also keeps the nail bed dry while ensuring maximum hygiene as you await medical intervention.

Additional Tips to Prevent Infection

Nail lifting increases the risk of infections, including fungal and bacterial problems. The following are additional tips to prevent infection.

  1. Soak in a salt solution: Prepare a salt solution by mixing one tablespoon of salt and a liter of water. Then soak the affected finger or toe in the solution for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times daily. After that, apply petroleum jelly and cover the toe or finger with an adhesive bandage.
  2. Maintain a clean, dry nail bed: Clean the area at least once daily with water and soap. Then wipe it dry and apply petroleum jelly. Do this until you get medical attention or until the problem resolves.
  3. Keep an eye out for infection: Unfortunately, nail infections are stubborn and difficult to predict. So, you may still get one even if you take excellent care of the lifted nail. Watch out for signs of infection, such as redness, heat, swelling, tenderness, and pus, and promptly inform your physician.

When to See a Doctor

Onycholysis is not an urgent problem. So, you can see the doctor during a routine visit. However, seek immediate medical attention if you observe the following;

  1. A dark steak under the nail: Nail lifting accompanied by a dark streak under the nail plate is often a sign of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Unfortunately, melanoma is challenging to treat if you don’t start early.
  2. Redness and swelling: Redness and swelling are telltale signs of skin infection. This is especially true if the swelling is painful. Antibiotics can clear the problem quickly if you begin treatment early.
  3. The nail turns greenish-black: A greenish-black nail is another sign of bacterial infection. The infection gradually spreads, and the damage worsens every day. So, you better begin treatment immediately.
  4. Pitting nails: Pitted nails look like they were made with an ice pick. It’s often a sign of psoriasis, alopecia, or eczema.

Onycholysis Treatment

At the hospital, the doctor begins by determining the root cause of the problem. Then they address the underlying issue while treating the damage.

Treatment starts with clipping back the affected nails to the point of attachment. Then they prescribe medication. The two main types of medication used in treating nail lifting are oral antifungals and topical antifungals.

  1. Oral antifungals are syrups, pills, or tablets that go through your mouth into the stomach. Common examples are Fluconazole (Diflunac), Terbinafine (Lamisil), and Intraconazole (Sporanox). The doctor will tell you the dosage.
  2. Topical treatments: Topical antifungals are creams, ointments, and gels that you rub directly onto the affected area. The doctor will tell you how often to apply for the medicine.

Note: Follow the doctor’s prescription fully. You may develop health complications if you take the meds longer than prescribed. Meanwhile, fungal infections often recur if you stop taking your meds too soon.

The doctor may recommend the following procedures if the problem doesnt go away with regular medication.

  1. A nail biopsy: First, the healthcare provider uses a sharp razor blade or surgical knife with a thin blade to obtain a sample of the cells in the affected area. Then the sample is sent to the laboratory, where experts examine them under microscopes.
  2. A fungal test: During a fungal test, the healthcare provider clips off some of the nails and prepares a fungal culture to rule out a fungal infection. Alternatively, the doctor may order a Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) stain to determine the presence of fungus.
  3. A blood test: Bood testing involves drawing a blood sample from your arm using a tiny needle. Then the sample heads to the laboratory for testing to rule out the presence of systemic diseases.

The above tests often reveal the underlying malignancy. If it’s a tumor, you may be advised to get nail unit imaging, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or X-Ray. Then the doctor will give you advice accordingly.

Most benefits come from behavior change and removing the dead space between the nail plate and bed.

How to Prevent Onycholysis 

It is challenging to prevent onycholysis as you never know where it will come from. Nonetheless, you can significantly reduce the risk. Consider the following;

  1. Keep your nails short at all times: Trimming your nails reduces the risk of catching on to objects. Also, it reduces the risk of nail lifting if you jam your toes. Dermatologists recommend cutting the nails once a week, not allowing the nail to extend past the fingerpad.
  2. Avoid biting your nails: Biting your nails increases the risk of nail fungus. You may also damage the fingers, cuticles, and nail bed tissue. Therefore, it puts you at great risk of onycholysis.
  3. Be careful when cleaning underneath the nail: Many people use cuticle sticks and brushes to clean the area just under the nail tip. Beware that the cleaning tools can break the skin under the nail, causing an infection and, ultimately, onycholysis.
  4. Avoid irritating nail products: Mani-pedis are great. They make our nails beautiful, and some even improve nail health. Unfortunately, a few products are harmful. For instance, harsh nail polish may dry the skin underneath the nail, causing cracking and infection. Similarly, be wary of artificial nails, nail gloss, and nail polish removers.
  5. Wear shoes and gloves when appropriate: Walking barefoot outdoors or in damp areas increases the risk of bacterial and fungal infections. Similarly, washing clothes or dishes with bare hands increase the risk of fingernail damage and injuries. So, wear gloves or shoes.

My Nail Broke Far Down; What do I do? 

Your nail can break at the base for various reasons. However, physical stress (especially injuries), nutrient deficiency, and natural wear are the most common reasons. Fortunately, nails grow back naturally, no matter the breaking point.

In the meantime, you need to contain the pain and prevent infections. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes every two hours for the first day and then 3-4 times a day until the pain disappears.

Next, cut away the detached nail using scissors, clean the wound, apply petroleum jelly, and wrap the finger or toe in a bandage.

It takes a week or two for the new fingernail to develop and up to six months for the nail to regrow fully. Meanwhile, a broken toenail begins to regrow in 4-6 weeks and regrows fully in 12-18 months. See a doctor if the symptoms don’t improve in a few weeks.

Broken Nail Halfway Down Nail Bed; What Do I Do? 

Nails broken halfway down the nail bed can be intensely painful. Moreover, the incident can cause nail bed injury, increasing the risk of infection. So, you should swing into action right away before the situation worsens.

First, find out the cause. Physical stress is the most common cause of broken nails, with injuries a usual culprit. Alternatively, your nail can break due to health issues like a fungal attack or nutrient deficiency. The root cause will help you seek the right remedies.

Next, begin restoration. Apply an ice pack over the affected area to minimize the pain and reduce swelling. Then trim away the detached nail with a pair of scissors. When done, clean the affected area, apply vaseline, and wrap it with an adhesive bandage.

After that, watch the area for a few days to see if it heals. The nail should start regrowing in 2-4 weeks. See the doctor if the pain persists, the area is infected, or the nail doesn’t begin to regrow after six weeks.

Acrylic Nail Ripped Off Real Nail; Will it Grow Back? 

It happens more often than you think. You go to the nail salon to get beautiful nails but return home in throbbing pain, with half of a healthy nail missing. So, why does it happen, and what next?

Unfortunately, the causes are as varied as the solutions. For instance, customers sit on their acrylic nails, ripping the entire nail. We’ve also seen a few clients rip their healthy natural nails while attempting to pull out the acrylic forcefully.

The first thing you need to do is to minimize the excruciating pain. Applying an icepack over the damaged area for 20-30 minutes eases the discomfort. Next, trim the damaged nail, removing any sharp edges. Then wash the blood and disinfect the area.

Finally, dress the wound in a waterproof bandaid to keep the area dry and prevent fungal and bacterial infections.

The nail will regrow naturally, though it takes a long time. See a doctor if there’s no improvement after a few days.

How Long for Detached Nails Grow Back? 

New nails grow naturally under the proximal nail fold, provided the nail matrix and bed are not damaged. Unfortunately, the regrowth period varies, depending on various factors, from patient health to your diet and genetics.

Generally, fingernails begin to regrow 2-3 weeks after damage and take 4-6 months to regrow fully. Meanwhile, toenails start regrowing 4-6 weeks after damage, taking 12-18 months to regrow fully.


Nails lifting from the nail bed isn’t a new problem. It affects millions worldwide due to underlying conditions, low-quality nail products (including false nails and nail polishes), physical stress, and trauma.

But you don’t need to lose sleep over it because healthy nails regrow naturally within 6-18 months.

In the meantime, take good care of the nails, ensuring they’re always clean, properly trimmed, and hydrated.

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